Scallops and Red Pepper Pasta

This recipe is a pure product of the internet. It started off as an email from my dear wife asking if scallops sounded good for dinner. Sure thing. I figured I’d just grill them up on skewers, but I wanted a new recipe for a side dish.

Googled grilled scallops – 291,000 results. On about the third page of search results I hit a scallops with roasted red pepper sauce recipe. Looks good, but  not quite it. Wait a minute, didn’t one of the food bloggers I read do a red pepper sauce that had cheese in it?

Google Reader to the rescue – Nibble Me This: Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Sauce for Pasta. Now that’s the ticket. Do I have all the ingredients it calls for? No, but I’m sure Chris won’t mind if I improvise a little ;).

Red Pepper Pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 medium red bell peppers, cut in half, cored and seeded
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
8 ounces spaghetti noodles (gluten-free in this case)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (500°F) heat.

Put the peppers on the grill skin side down and roast until most of the skin has blackened (about 5 minutes). Flip and roast the other side until the flesh start to soften (about 3 minutes). Remove the peppers to a large zip-top bag and seal. Let them steam in the bag and cool while you get the rest of the ingredients cooking. Leave the grill up and running because you’ll do the scallops on it after the sauce is ready.

Start the water boiling for the pasta. Heat the oil in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until they start to soften (about 3 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the charred skin. Give the peppers a rough chop and add to the onions and garlic. Add the stock, salt, pepper, and paprika and bring the stock to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender or food processor, blend everything until it’s pureed. Return puree to the stove and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese and stir to combine. It should form a thick sauce, but feel free to add more stock to thin it or let it simmer for a bit to thicken.

When the sauce is to the right consistency, put a lid on it and turn the heat to low just to keep it warm.

Your pasta water should be boiling by now. Add the spaghetti and prepare according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the scallops.

Scallop Skewers

1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
6-8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Rinse off the scallops and pat dry.  In a medium bowl, combine the scallops, oil, salt, and paprika. Mix well to coat.

Thread the scallops on the skewers, making sure to leave some space between them.

When the pasta is ready, put the scallops on grill. Cook on high heat for about 2 minutes. flip and cook for another 2 minutes, or just until they turn opaque. Scallops get tough if you over cook them, so pull them off a little early and let them finish cooking on the plate.

I served the scallops with the pasta covered in the red pepper sauce and a side of brussels sprouts.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The scallops were pretty much perfect – just a little browned on the outside and still very tender. The minimal seasoning really enhanced the flavor.

The red sauce was another story. It was good – sweet and smoky and robust, but it lacked zing. The goat cheese gave it a nice rich taste, but Chris’s recipe called for feta and I think that would have been a better pick.

BTW – brussels sprouts covered in red pepper sauce are almost edible!

Tasty Licks Salmon

This is another rub courtesy of Fred’s Music & BBQ Supply. Fred helpfully included some recipes and suggestions to use as a starting point. His salmon recipe looks like a real winner.

1 salmon fillet (Alaskan wild in this case)
1-2 teaspoons of Signore Bernardo’s Salmon Seasoning
Olive oil

Use a food-grade plank that’s been soaked in water for at least an hour. Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high heat (about 400°F).

Oil both sides of the salmon and season with Signore Bernardo’s Salmon Seasoning.

Put the plank on the grill by itself for about 5 minutes, just until you can smell the smoke coming off the plank. Put the salmon on the plank, close the lid, and let it cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the fish hits 130°F internal and the flesh just starts to flake.

The plank almost wasn't wide enough for this lovely fillet.

Serve hot off the grill. If you’re being fancy schmancy, cover a serving platter with a bed of damp lettuce leaves and set the plank (with the fillet still on it) on the platter. The lettuce makes sure the plank is extinguished and serving off the plank makes for a nice presentation.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
When Fred sent this rub to me he said that it was “something special” and I have to agree with him. I’m a big salmon fan, and I really don’t like to overwhelm its natural flavor too much. Fred’s salmon seasoning does a great job of accenting without covering anything up. The garlic and black pepper in the rub are nicely balanced with sugar and citrus. You taste the salmon, but you also taste all of these other flavors at the same time. Outstanding rub!

Going by Feel – 200th Post!

This is my 200th post here at Food & Fire. Can you believe it?  Yeah, me neither. A lot of things have changed since March of 2008 – new theme, bigger and (I hope) better pics, a subscription service, and the ability to print individual posts. A lot of things haven’t changed – the blog is still mostly about live fire cooking, I still love my Big Green Egg, we still eat with a camera at the kitchen table, and my dear wife still encourages (tolerates?) all of this food foolishness.

For my 200th post, rather than a specific recipe, I’d like to talk about something I’ve been working on for a while – the whole idea of going by feel when cooking.

While I’ll often follow a recipe exactly the first time I make it, after that I try to cook more by feel – “guesstimating” quantities by eyeballing them rather than whipping out the measuring spoons. I’m not to the point where “glops” are going to replace tablespoons in my written recipes, but getting to know how much of something you have without measuring really helps to make cooking faster and more fun. This also allows me to adjust the recipe based upon our personal tastes – you already know about my penchant for Penzey’s spices and hot sauce!

Alternate Measurements

When you don’t have time (or inclination) to reach for a measuring spoon, a timer, or a thermometer, here’s an alphabetical list of other ways to measure:

About a beer – a measure of time, as in “How long until the coals are ready?” “Oh, about a beer.” Roughly 20 minutes.

Dash –  the amount you can pick up with your thumb and first 2 fingers, about 1/8 teaspoon.

Dollop – the amount of sauce or thick liquid that you can get out of a container with a dining spoon, about 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Glob – the amount of sauce or thick liquid that you can get out of a container with a serving spoon, about  1/2 cup.

Glop – the amount of sauce or thick liquid that you can get out of a container with a soup spoon, about  2-3 tablespoons.

Glug  – from the sound liquid makes when pouring out of a bottle, about 2 tablespoons.

Handful – depending on whose hands you’re using, 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

How Long Until Sunset –  important to know so you don’t end up grilling in the dark.

Pinch – 1/2 a dash, or the amount you can pick up with your thumb and forefinger.

Shot – as in shot glass, 1 1/2 ounces, or a healthy glug.

Squeeze – 1 squeeze of a lemon or lime wedge gets you about 1/2 teaspoon of juice

Smidgen – 1/2 a Dash, about 1/32 teaspoon.

Spoonful – see Glop.

Approximate Yield

Do you want to measure out 2 cups of chopped onion? I sure don’t, so I’m slowly but surely converting  my recipes to call for whole units rather than a specific amount.

Apple – 1 large apple yields about 1 cup chopped

Bacon – 1 slice cooked  yields about 1 tablespoon crumbled

Cheese – a 4 ounce chunk yields about 1 cup shredded

Eggs – 1 large, uncooked is about 3 tablespoons

Garlic – 1 medium-size clove of garlic yields 1 teaspoons minced

Lemon juice – 1 lemon yields about 3 tablespoons of juice

Lime juice  – 1 lime yields about 2 tablespoons of juice

Onion – 1 medium onion yields about 1/2 cup chopped

Orange juice – 1 orange yields about 4 tablespoons of juice

Potatoes – 3 medium white or russet yield about 2 1/4 cups peeled and diced or 1 3/4 cups mashed

Tomatoes – 1 medium yields about 1 cup chopped

Heat

Put your open hand, palm down, about 5 inches from the grate and see how long you can comfortably hold it there (comfortably being the operative word, no G. Gordon Liddy’s here, please):

2 to 4 seconds – high heat, 450°F to 550°F.

5 to 7 seconds  – medium heat, 350°F to 450°F.

8 to 10 seconds  – low heat, 250°F to 350°F.

Is it Done Yet?

These aren’t the optimal temps for tasty chow, but when in doubt, the USDA says cooking to these minimum temps will keep folks from getting the gleep:

Chicken – 165°F, juices will run clear and the legs wiggle freely in the joint.

Steaks & Roasts – 145°F, has a large pink center, yields only slightly when pressed.

Fish – 145°F, flesh is opaque and flakes easily.

Pork – 160°F, brown/gray center, no pink.

Ground Beef – 160°F, uniformly brown throughout, no pink.

Many thanks to all my readers!  I appreciate your support and comments. Here’s to another 200 posts!

Oil Drum Chicken Thighs

So, the other night my dear wife asks if I would please make “golf ball chicken” for her.

“Excuse me?”

“You know, those thighs you marinated in Worcestershire that curled up like little golf balls.”

Face palm, “Oh yeah, thought you’d forgotten about those.”

“No, they were tasty, just a little chewy.”

“Sure honey. Just let me play around with that recipe a little bit. I’ll make them for you tomorrow.”

The “golf balls” in question were boneless, skinless thighs that I’d soaked in a version of my Oil Drum Chicken marinade and grilled indirect. The thighs did indeed roll up into little balls and I didn’t cook them long enough to make them tender. Not a pretty moment in my cooking history.

Thankfully, they were tasty and my dear wife is very forgiving, so here’s skewered version of the same dish.

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Reserve half for basting the chicken (I use an old Worcestershire sauce bottle with a shaker top).

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and coat with the other half of the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, overnight is better, and 48 hours rocks.

You’ll need 3-4 bamboo skewers. Soak them in water for at least an hour.

Set the grill up for a direct cook over very hot (500°F +) heat.

Remove the thighs from the marinade and thread flat onto skewers. Grill about 2 minutes on one side. Flip and baste with the reserved marinade. Repeat until they are crispy on the outside and at least 180°F on the inside (about 10 minutes total).

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This is that crispy, juicy, smoky, tangy chicken that I dream about. The meat was flavorful, and so moist and tender that it just about fell off the skewers. No golf balls here!

So why just 4 stars? I was short on time and ignored my own advice by marinating these thighs for just 2 hours. The extra time yields extra flavor.

Habanero Hot Sauce

The bounty of peppers continues at my office. This time it’s a mixed bunch of habaneros. Good thing, because my last precious bottle of Marie Sharp’s is almost empty and I don’t have another trip to Belize to pick up more scheduled for anytime soon.

For this recipe, I’m looking for a good amount of heat. The orange habaneros run about 350,000 Scoville units, and the red savina will go to a whopping 580,000. But it’s not all about the heat – the veggies and fruit juice are there to tone down the burn and help round out the flavor.

NOTE: Before you even think about making this sauce, turn on your stove’s exhaust vent, open your windows, and don a pair of latex gloves. These peppers will give you a burn that keeps on giving, and you don’t want that near your eyes or any other sensitive parts, if you get where I’ve drifted.

18-20 Habanero chiles, roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 c cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 orange (about 4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a small stock pot, saute the onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add the carrots with a 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, lime juice, orange juice, and peppers. Cover pot pot with a lid and cook until peppers are soft, about 10 minutes.

Let mixture cool. Place mixture in blender and puree until smooth. Add more vinegar if the mixture is too thick. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge.

The Verdict: ★★½☆☆
Oh, sweet baby Jebus, please make the burning stop!!! This stuff is HOT! What the hell was I thinking? A bushel of freaking carrots and a tree full of limes wouldn’t knock the heat outta this stuff. Okay, whew, relax, it’s not face melting/mind-numbing hot, but it’s a WHOLE LOT HOTTER than I thought it would turn out.

I’m going to stick this pint o’ napalm way in the back of the fridge for a bit and see if it mellows any. Failing that, I might just bottle this up into little jars and give it away to “special” people on my Xmas list ;).

Tasty Licks Wings

Fred, of Fred’s Music & BBQ Supply, was kind enough to send me some of his Tasty Licks rubs for me to try out. Since I was dying for wings (when am I not dying for wings?) I decided to try a batch with his Original Rub.

I usually cook wings in the medium-high range (350°F or so) without any added wood smoke, but this time I decided to slow smoke them for a couple of hours over apple wood before cranking the heat up to crisp the skin.

6 fresh chicken wings
Olive oil
1-2 tablespoons Tasty Licks BBQ Company “Original” All Purpose BBQ Rub and Seasoning

In  medium bowl, lightly coat wings with olive oil. Dust the wings with some of the rub and give them a toss. Dust and toss again, making sure that all of the wings are covered with the rub.

Set a cooling rack on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Lay wings out on a rack and let them sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.

Set the grill up for an indirect cook at 250°. Once the grill is up to temperature, add your smoking wood and arrange the wings on the grate top side up. Close the lid and smoke for an hour. Flip the wings and smoke for another hour. Now bump the heat up to 350°F and cook for 15 minutes. Flip the wings and cook for another 15, or until they are brown and crispy.

Serve them hot off the grill with some Horseradish Mustard Sauce for dipping.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is a great rub! I tasted it right out of the bottle and it was a lovely blend of heat and sweetness. You could really taste the chili powder, but it wasn’t overwhelming – kind of a nice, long, low burn. The sugar and salt hit you right up front and really helped balance the spice in the rub.

The wings were very tasty done low and slow. The skin stayed crisp while the meat was melty and tender.  I loved the smoky flavor and the rub really complemented that. You could call them barbecue wings, but not in that just-slap-a-sauce-on-them kind of way. They had that true barbecue taste that you can only get from the blending of spices and smoke over low heat.

Thanks for sharing, Fred!

Sriracha Chili Sauce

I’m a huge fan of Huy Fong’s Sriracha Chili Sauce (a.k.a Rooster Sauce). I use it to make a spicy mayo spread for sandwiches, to warm up store-bought ketchup, or to add the spice to my Spicy Orange Wings.

I’ve been fortunate lately that folks in my office have been giving away a lot of peppers. So I snagged enough of these lovely red and yellow Thai chilies to make a batch of sauce.

25-30 assorted Thai chilies
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce (I like Squid Brand)
1 tablespoon coconut oil

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Snip the stems off the chiles, but leave the green crown attached. Roughly chop the chilies and the garlic. Put them in the pan and cook until the garlic begins to soften (about 5 minutes).

Add the water and vinegar, put the lid on the pan, and cook until the peppers have softened (about 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and let mixture cool.

When cool, place mixture in blender with the salt, sugar, and fish sauce and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more vinegar if the mixture is too thick. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The yellow chilies gave this a bright/green taste and light color. I like it, just not as much as my beloved sriracha. It has moderate heat that is nicely offset by the sugar and fish sauce. I’m letting the it mellow in the fridge for a bit and am looking forward to using it to bump up my next batch of satay or coconut stew.

Thighs & Veggies

This is one of the best ways to cook chicken. Stacking the chicken on top of the pan of veggies means the veggies soak up all those lovely chicken drippings and the chicken stays nice and juicy.

Crispy Thighs
8-10 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue rub (Dizzy Pig’s Shaking the Tree in this case)
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
Olive oil

Lay the thighs out in a baking pan. Coat both sides with olive oil. Dust both sides with the rub, working it in with your hands. Dust each side with a little kosher salt. Set in the fridge uncovered while you prep the veggies.

Mixed Veggies
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a disposable foil pan. Mix well.

The Cook

Set up your grill  for an indirect cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I use about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet for the roasting pan.

Set the pan full of veggies on the trivet. Place a small wire rack or grill grate on top of the pan. Lay the chicken thighs skin side down on the grate above the veggies.

Close the lid and cook for 20 minutes. Lift the grate with the chicken on it off of the pan and give the veggies a stir. Add more oil if they are starting to stick. Put the grate back on the pan and flip the chicken. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Check the veggies again. If they are done, take them off the grill and set them someplace warm while the chicken finishes. Flip the thighs and cook for another 20 minutes. Flip and cook the thighs until the skin is crisp and the internal temp is about 200°F (about another 20 minutes).

The Verdict: ★★★★★
200°F chicken thighs? Seriously? After I heard that some competition cooks are taking theirs that high I decided to give it a try. The results where amazing – very crispy on the outside, but still juicy and tender on the inside. The skin was so crispy it tasted like chicken bacon. Outstanding. Now to do a batch of wings like this.

The veggies? Oh yeah, those – they were so good that I even ate zucchini without complaining.

Dark & Stormy

Dark & Stormy’s are most decidedly a sipping-on-the-deck kind of drink. While summer is over, we’re still having some days that are warm enough to comfortably sit outside, and that’s reason enough to make up a few of these. This national cocktail of Bermuda is traditionally made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, but I love the more readily available Kraken Black Spiced Rum.

Kraken is as black as a good cup of coffee and needs the lime to cut through through the richness and brighten the drink. The ginger beer compliments its vanilla and spice tones, while the the fizz says “summertime.”

2 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum
Reed’s Jamaican Ginger Beer
Lime

Fill a highball cocktail glass with ice. Add the rum and fill with ginger beer. Top with a squeeze of lime.

While a couple of these are very enjoyable, any more and you risk the dreaded “bangin’ in de head, mon.”